I have so many online friends and family that I gave in and decided to do a full update on my blog instead of rewriting it several places.
For those of you who don't know, my mom was diagnosed with Stage III non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Friday, which is cancer of the lymph nodes. She has one cluster around the bile duct, which was choking the flow of bile from the gallbladder. There is a second cluster near her lungs, which is not causing any major problems right now. (Except that, well, it's cancer…) Her prognosis is good.
She is a cashier at a Publix grocery store near her home. Last Monday, she went to work with a slightly sallow complexion and came home very yellow. My brother took her to the doctor, and they scheduled her to come back for additional tests on Wednesday.
By Wednesday, she was golden yellow, almost orange. She was tested, then sent to two other doctors for tests. The third doctor wanted to send her straight to the emergency room, but she had driven herself. She talked the doctor into letting her go home, take care of my ninety-two-year-old grandmother, and have my brother drive her to the hospital as soon as he got home.
At the hospital, the barrage of tests began. The extreme jaundice was a pretty good clue that something was wrong with the gallbladder. They stuck her so many times that by Saturday the inside of her left elbow was purple and sunken, and they were no longer able to take blood from either elbow and were moving on to sticking smaller vessels. Did I mention my mom has a major fear of needles?)
At first they thought she had hepatitis, but that turned out to be a false positive. Since my grandmother is so old and my sister is pregnant, we're especially thankful that was not the case. My mom would have been so depressed if she couldn't be around her daughter while she was pregnant with my mom's first grandchild! (My sis is having a boy.)
Friday they diagnosed the cancer: twelve lymph nodes in two places, I believe. They did surgery to put a stent in to allow the gall bladder to drain. I think this was the worst part of it for my mom: she was awake for the procedure, which took over three hours instead of the usual forty-five minutes. And despite what the doctors said during the procedure, she remembers all of it. (Which is ironic, considering that the overload of bilirubin in her body and the medications are temporarily interfering with her short-term memory and ability to concentrate.) They also did a biopsy of a lymph node under her right arm, but that was fine. They thought they may have to do a lung biopsy, but the CAT scan made that unnecessary.
By Saturday, she was much less yellow, though that is relative. She was still very jaundiced, but she had dropped from twenty-two times the norm to nine. Still lots of medication-induced fogginess, though. Nothing changed Sunday, except that she continued to improve.
On Monday, they put a port in her collarbone and did a bone marrow biopsy a couple of hours later. They also did an echocardiogram, which came back fine. We won't have the results of the bone marrow biopsy, though, for a few more days.
And yesterday she went home. Infection control is a big issue with her stent, so my uncle and brother cleaned and disinfected the entire house. She'll be starting chemo soon; she also has gallstones, but they're going to wait a couple of months on her surgery.
So right now, we're praying for good results on her bone marrow biopsy and making sure she takes it easy. As long as her bone marrow is cancer-free, her prognosis is very good!